Category Archives: Faith

Faith is an act of the intellect directed by the will – ST II-II, Q2, A1, ad 3

Often in our 21st century, North American millieu, I think we understand “faith” as an assent but ruled by a requirement of “feel good” rewards for that act of faith,  our requirement for “good feels”.  No “good feels”, no “faith”, right?  This couldn’t be farther from the truth as the Catholic Church defines.  Feelings are highly mutable.  Up one day, down the next.  Happy one hour, angry the next.  One of the qualities of God is “impassibility”, notice the “a”.  This means God does not feel.  Not that He is not compassionate or not merciful or does not love, but that whether we believe or not, we bless or curse Him, He is completely unaffected by His creatures.  God dwells in beyond eternal bliss and unapproachable light from which we would instantly perish seeing it as unpurified mortals.  Think “Indiana Jones:  Raiders of the Lost Ark”, when the Nazis finally open the Ark of the Covenant of God.  Yeah, that one.

Faith, as defined by St Thomas Aquinas, OP, is an act of the intellect. We decide, by human reason, inspired by divine grace, and we choose to embrace all the implications of that assent, acting through our will to put into motion that faith, that grace inspired decision. Faith is not, by the above, I believe now because I have “good feels”. But, when that’s over, so is my faith. When the party resumes, I’m in. No. 2 Tim 4:7 -“I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith.” 1 Cor 9:24.  Kept, fought, finished, run, win being decisions to act, acts of intellect directed by the will. I believe, credo, whether I’m feelin’ it or not. I believe, credo.

-by Rev Gabriel of St Mary Magdalen, OCD, Divine Intimacy, Baronius Press, (c) 1964

Presence of God – I recollect myself in the presence of God living in my soul, to learn how to seek Him by the light of faith.

MEDITATION

“He that cometh to God, must believe.” (Hebrews 11:6), says St. Paul, and he gives us this definition of faith: “Faith is the substance of things to be hoped for, the evidence of things not seen.” (Hebrews 11:1). In heaven, we shall see God by the light of glory, but on earth, we know Him by the light of faith.

We must not base our interior life, our search for God, on sentiment or spiritual consolations, but on an intensive practice of the theological virtues. St. John of the Cross gives this advice to a soul seeking God, “Hear a word full of substance and unapproachable truth: it is that thou seek Him in faith and in love, without desiring to find satisfaction in aught.” (Spiritual Canticle, 1,11). Therefore, we must learn to seek God without any desire for pleasure, consolation, satisfaction, even though it be purely spiritual; we must learn to walk in the path of “naked faith.” Faith, more than any kind of knowledge or of reasoning, puts the soul into direct contact with God. Faith is “the proximate and proportionate means whereby the soul is united with God; for such is the likeness between itself and God, that there is no other difference save that which exists between seeing God and believing in Him” (John of the Cross, Ascent of Mount Carmel II, 9,1). Faith places us before God as He is; it does not make us see Him, but it makes us believe in Him, and thus puts our intellect in contact with Him. By means of faith, “God manifests Himself to the soul in divine light which passes all understanding. And therefore, the greater the faith of the soul, the more closely is it united with God” (ibid.). Faith unites the soul with God, even though it experiences no spiritual consolation; on the contrary, God often deprives the soul of all spiritual consolation that it may exercise itself more in faith and grow in it.

COLLOQUY

“O Lord, give me a pure, ardent, strong faith to sustain and guide me in my continual search for You, and to make me adhere to You with perfect confidence although You remain hidden from my sight.

Only by faith can my soul adhere to You, as You really are—infinite, omnipotent, and merciful, unity in Trinity: thus faith presents You to my soul. Faith comprehends You as You are, in Your divinity, Your mysteries, and Your works—all of which it proposes to my belief, so that in faith I find You completely, and in the act of faith, even though I do not see You, I possess You truly. If faith holds You hidden and veiled, if it permits me to see You only “through a glass in a dark manner” (1 Corinthians 13:12), I am certain, however, that it does not deceive me; it proposes You to me as You have revealed Yourself. How shall I not believe, Lord, in Your word, since You have spoken to us not only by the mouths of the prophets, but by the mouth of Jesus, Your Incarnate Word? Even if faith presents mysteries and wonders to believe which my poor mind cannot understand, I shall not be bewildered. What mystery is greater than that of Your infinite charity which has loved me from all eternity, created me by an act of love, redeemed me by the Blood of Your Son, and made my poor soul the temple of the Most Holy Trinity? “On Your word alone, I believe with full certitude. I believe everything the Son of God has said; there is nothing more true than the Word of Truth.” (St. Thomas Aquinas, OP).

“O God, far from being astonished by Your works, they are for me but one more reason for praising You. The more difficult they are to understand, the more they arouse devotion in me; and the greater they are, the greater is the devotion…. So the less of a natural foundation these truths of the faith have, the more firmly I hold them and the greater is the devotion they inspire in me. Since You are almighty, I accept all the wondrous works which You have done as most certain, and in this respect I have never harbored a doubt.” (Teresa of Jesus, Life, 28 – 19).

I want to seek You, O God, in this ardent faith, and cling to You always, even if such faith is “naked” and stripped of every consolation. “Nothing shall affright me, neither wind nor rain; and should impenetrable clouds come, O Jesus, to conceal You from my eyes, I shall not change my place, knowing that beyond the dark clouds the sun of Your love is still shining and that its splendor cannot be eclipsed for a single instant.” (Thérèse of the Child Jesus, Story of a Soul, 13).”

Love, intellect, will, and faith,
Matthew

We were made for happiness. It is our natural end.

be·at·i·tude
/bēˈadəˌt(y)o͞od/
noun
noun: beatitude, plural noun: beatitudes
1. supreme blessedness.

“Since happiness is the perfect and sufficient good, it must needs set man’s desire at rest and exclude every evil. . . . Wherefore also according to the Philosopher (Ethics, 1:9), happiness is the reward of works of virtue. — St. Thomas Aquinas, Summa Theologica, I-II, Q. 5. arts. 4, 5

“Now I wish to tell you further, that a man proves his patience on his neighbor, when he receives injuries from him. Similarly, he proves his humility on a proud man, his faith on an infidel, his true hope one who despairs, his justice on the unjust, his kindness on the cruel, his gentleness and benignity on the irascible. Good men produce and prove all their virtues on their neighbor. . . .” — St. Catherine of Siena, Dialogue

“Perceived lack of intimacy and belonging is clearly a threat to our happiness and, indeed, is a real evil when evil is understood as a lack of a good that should be present…As St. Irenaeus stated so well eighteen centuries ago, “The glory of God is man fully alive, and the life of man is the vision of God.”13

One hundred years before Irenaeus’s birth, God made Himself visible and explained in His own words why He came to the people on earth: “I came that they may have life, and have it abundantly” (John 10:10). St. Thomas Aquinas added that God intends for us a twofold happiness: an imperfect happiness while here on earth and a perfect happiness in heaven.

Starting with Aristotle and concluding with St. Matthew, Thomas tells us: “The Philosopher, in placing man’s happiness in this life (Ethics, 1:10), says it is imperfect, and after a long discussion concludes: We call men happy, but only as men. But God has promised us perfect happiness, when we shall be as the angels . . . in heaven (Matt. 22:30).”14 And what are the keys to both kinds of happiness? We saw in this chapter’s first quotation that St. Thomas Aquinas claims that virtues hold the keys to happiness.

Virtues are habits or dispositions to know the truth and to do the good. They perfect our powers as human beings made in the image and likeness of God with intellects and wills. They perfect the capacities of our intellects to know what is true, and the capacities of our wills to rein in our passions and desires to keep us from doing what is wrong and to guide us toward what is right. The more we embrace and build these capacities, the happier we become and the less susceptible to negative attitudes and emotions, including those that accompany excessive, prolonged loneliness.

Now, there are important natural virtues, such as temperance, fortitude, justice, and prudence, long known to great pagan philosophers. And literally thanks be to God, there are also supernatural, theological, or infused virtues that the Father and the Son freely bestow on us through the workings of the Holy Spirit: faith, hope, and love (also called charity). All the virtues work together to guide us toward that imperfect happiness we can experience on earth and the perfect eternal bliss we hope to share: the beatific vision of God in heaven.”

Love,
Matthew

Vost, Kevin. Catholic Guide to Loneliness (Kindle Locations 379-389, 391-417). Sophia Institute Press. Kindle Edition.

13 Irenaeus, Against Heresies, IV, 20, 7, as cited in Mons. Phillipe Delhaye, Pope John Paul II on the Contemporary Importance of St. Irenaeus, no. 10, http://www.ewtn.com/library/theology/irenaeus.htm.
14 Summa Theologica (ST), I-II, Q. 3, art. 2.

Dec 25 – The Incarnation & The Theological Virtues

Theological-Virtues

Founding Mothers & Fathers of the United States were trained in Virtues, literally, as children.  It was foundational to their education.  See books by Bill Bennett.  The Virtues led and formed the framework in their alphabetical training, reading, and writing.  It does not bode well, this practice & these virtues have fallen out of practice/ fashion in their creation, imho.

In Christian philosophy, theological virtues are the character qualities associated with salvation. The three theological virtues are:

  • Faith – steadfastness in belief.
  • Hope – expectation of and desire of receiving; refraining from despair and capability of not giving up.
  • Love – selfless, unconditional, and voluntary loving-kindness such as helping one’s neighbors.

They occur in the Bible at 1 Corinthians 13:13.

In Catholic theology, it is held that these virtues differ from the Cardinal Virtues in that they can not be obtained by human effort. A person can only receive them by their being “infused”—through Divine grace—into the person.

The theological virtues are so named because the object of these virtues is the divine being (theos). Other virtues have vice at their extremes, and are only virtues when they are maintained between these extremes. In the case of the Theological Virtues, they do not contribute to vice at the positive extreme; that is, there is no vice in having an unlimited amount of faith, hope, or love, when God is the object of that virtue.  (Ed. There is no such thing as “too much of a good thing” with the Theological Virtues, as their ultimate aim is God, Himself.)

More than one vice can be the opposite of each theological virtue:

  • Lack of faith may give place to incredulity (as in atheism and agnosticism), blasphemy or apostasy.
  • Lack of hope may give place to despair or cynicism.
  • Lack of love may give place to hatred, wrath or indifference.

Symbolism:

Theological Virtues are often depicted in art as young women. The symbols most often associated with them are:

Faith – cross, pointing upward, staff and chalice, lamp, candle
Hope – anchor, harp, flaming brand, palm
Charity – flaming heart, with children, gathering fruit

john_sica
-by Br John Sica, OP

St. Thomas Aquinas explains the fittingness of the Incarnation in several reasons, including how it raises our minds and hearts to an increase in faith, hope, and charity. Here I highlight a few of these reasons with respect to the Nativity of Christ and its manifestation.

1. Faith.

Faith, as St. Thomas defines it, is the habit of the mind whereby eternal life is begun in us, making the will assent to what is non-apparent. Faith rests in God as First Truth Speaking. St. Thomas says that faith “is made more certain by believing God Himself Who speaks.” In Jesus Christ, we literally hear God’s own words, from His own mouth. St. Augustine says that, “In order that man might journey more trustfully toward the truth, the Truth itself, the Son of God, having assumed human nature, established and founded faith.”

But note that Jesus became an object of faith before He began His public ministry. Indeed, Simeon takes the child Jesus in his arms and proclaims Him “a light for revelation to the Gentiles” (Lk 2:32). St. Thomas says that “the Magi were the ‘first-fruits of the Gentiles,’ who were to believe in Christ.” Simeon’s prophecy was already fulfilled in the Magi, who sought Him in response to the sign of the star and who did Him homage.

2. Hope.

Consider what hope is. The theological virtue of hope relies firmly on God for what is necessary for eternal life. In hope, our human will clings to the goodness of God for us. Augustine says, “Nothing was so necessary for raising our hope as to show us how deeply God loved us. And what could afford us a stronger proof of this than that the Son of God should become a partner with us of human nature?” Why should the Incarnation correspond to hope, as St. Augustine suggests? In hope, we formally depend on God’s merciful omnipotence: that He is omnipotent shows us that He can save us, and that He is merciful—as shown by the Incarnation—shows us that He wants to.

In the Incarnation, God pulls out all the stops. One Dominican commentator has noted that “no greater way is intelligible by which God could communicate Himself to the creature” than by uniting human nature to His Person. Seeing the Christ child in the manger, we know that God took the most extreme means to save us from sin, and we have confidence that He will continue to offer us the means to be rescued from our sin and given sanctifying grace.

3. Love.

While hope clings to God as good for us, charity clings to God as good in Himself. The divine goodness is what primarily motivates us to charity. But secondarily, St. Thomas explains, it is aimed at “other reasons that inspire us with love for Him, or which make it our duty to love Him,” and these “are secondary and result from the first.” The Incarnation is the greatest of these secondary reasons. The history of Christ’s Nativity and infancy counts powerfully towards this. Seeing that Christ became a weak and helpless infant becomes, for us, a motive to love in return. As Augustine said, “If we have been slow to love, at least let us hasten to love in return.”

Love breaks forth in acts of joy and peace. We experience joy in the possession of the good and peace when we are at concord, even within ourselves. At the Nativity the angels announce good news of a “great joy” (Lk 2:10), and their hymn of praise wishes “peace” among men of good will (Lk 2:14). All of this is because the Savior is born in the city of David, whose Nativity incites us to the acts and effects of love.”

Love,
Matthew